Week #6: Lola Lota

Subject: Write about the oldest person you know.

She really isn’t the oldest person I know, but she is the oldest person I am somewhat close to: my fellow dragon, Lola Lota.

We were both born on the year of the dragon. My father often attributes Lola’s fierceness and my own stubbornness to that. She was born in 1928; I, in 1988. She’s turning 86 this month while I’m turning 26 in two months’ time. A quick consultation with Wikipedia reveals we are both earth dragons. Not that I really believe all those astrology stuff, but it’s nice to think that we actually have that in common.

I was out jogging one crisp morning last May when I saw Lola Lota doing Tai Chi at my school’s Lover’s Park. I didn’t notice her immediately. I just thought it would be a funny coincidence if she’d also happen to be there swaying with the elderly group. How cool would that be? Well, I looked closer, and omigash, there she was!

She’s really strong and active that way. She has to be, to keep ruling our compound with an iron fist. But tough as she is, she — in truth — is very tender in a lot of ways.

When I was in the fifth grade, she flew all the way to Australia by herself to visit our family (we were keeping my Dad company that time). My brother and I took turns sleeping next to her. I think she read us bedtime stories, but I’m not entirely sure of the details of that memory. I am sure, however, of the evening walks we took with her around the neighborhood and how she’d randomly pick a leaf or a flower from somewhere, preserving the foliage later by pressing them within the pages of an album or a book. Sometimes when I visit her now, she’d show me those leaves and ask, “Naalala mo ba noong tayo’y nasa Australia..?” (Do you remember when we were in Australia…?)

I always make sure to say goodbye to her when I leave the Philippines, before I head back to Malaysia. She’d usually have a pabaon — a blouse, a handbag, a scarf — something she’d want me to bring along. Lola Lota is sweet and thoughtful that way.

She gave me three greeting cards (one during my college graduation, one on my master’s graduation, and another for Christmas 2012) wherein she commended me for being good, for being kind, for being a person who achieves so well, etc. They were nice thoughts, nice messages from a caring woman who takes all her grandkids’ concerns to heart. At the end of each card, she lovingly reminded me to be open to love (I was a proud member of the NBSB — No Boyfriend Since Birth — club). I think it made her happy when I finally introduced her to the man who makes me swoon.

We had ice cream while she grilled him about the details of his job, about his hometown, about those stuff grandmothers usually ask their grandchildren’s significant others. It could be my imagination, but I believe she left our house smiling.

I hope she’d still be alive when the time comes that I’d get married, have kids, have a family of my own. I won’t mind it if she gives one of her lengthy speeches at the reception. And it would be great, perhaps, if she’d have a great-granddaughter who’d be born in the year of the dragon, too.

I love you, Lola Lota. This one’s for you. Happy Birthday in advance!

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